Veterans Should Beware Of Companies That Say They Provide Free Assistance With Benefit Claims But Whose Real Goal Is To Sell Annuities

Lately, I have seen a deceptive business practice beginning in New Jersey and the Northeastern states which, until recently, was largely confined to California and other western states. That is, the practice by certain companies of presenting themselves as non-profit organizations dedicated to assisting veterans by offering to prepare a veteran’s application for Aid and Attendance pension benefits for free when the real goal is to sell annuities and other insurance products. I’ve seen it work like this: if a family member in an assisted living facility asks for a referral for assistance in preparing an application for Aid and Attendance benefits and submitting it to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the family member may be given a referral to an insurance agent, whose company’s name often sounds much more like a non-profit organization than an insurance agency. The care facility often does not know that the purported non-profit is actually an insurance agency. These companies often offer “free” services (out of the goodness of their hearts?), and only after they have gained the trust of the veteran and his or her family, do the annuity sales pitches begin. Unfortunately, it appears that assisting veterans with Aid and Attendance applications has become the new “bait and switch” lead generator for some insurance agents throughout this country. In fact, I have heard that there are companies who have developed “turn-key” systems that agents can use for this purpose.

Of course, the majority of insurance agents are honest, and the majority of insurance agencies do not employ deceptive business practices. But in my opinion some agents are less than forthright in their dealings with veterans. For example, I recently searched the website of one company which offered free services for veterans with a company name that suggested it was a non-profit organization. Interestingly, the company’s website did not disclose the names of any of the members or employees of the organization. This omission alone raised questions about the validity of the company. But, I investigated a little further. I ran a Google search of the company’s address and telephone number and found that the address and telephone number of the purported non-profit appeared to be the same as another company claiming to be in the health care business. The website of the health care business listed the owner’s name. Another Google search revealed that the owner of the health care company was a licensed insurance agent. Does this prove the first company, the purported non-profit, which claimed to assist veterans for free was engaged in deceptive business practices because the company’s actual goal was to sell annuities? No, but it makes me wonder.

The take-away for veterans and their families is this: Be careful when dealing with companies claiming to provide free services for veterans, especially when those free services involve the filing of applications for Aid and Attendance benefits. The company’s goal in providing the free services could be to gain the veteran’s trust in order to make a sale of unneeded annuities. The take-away for assisted living facilities is this: companies that present themselves as non-profits and offer to provide veteran residents free services may be manipulating the truth in order to gain the trust of their veteran clients in order to sell annuities. These companies are dangerous. They are typically not accredited by the VA. If the management of an assisted living facility truly wants to provide a benefit – a long lasing benefit – to their residents, they should refer residents who are veterans only to an Accredited Veterans Attorney or directly to the VA.